Coming off a solid quarter in which it added 1.1 million customers, Verizon Wireless is turning its attention toward augmenting its 4G LTE network as well as launching its first voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) handset in the fourth quarter.
Speaking on the carrier's third-quarter earnings call, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) CFO Fran Shammo played down the speeds of LTE, noting that those only matter when the network is unloaded, instead choosing to talk up what Verizon Wireless is doing to bolster its network in major urban markets like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago.
This work has already started in NYC where the carrier is upgrading its LTE network to 2x20 Mhz channels. (See: Verizon Deploying Fatter 4G Pipes in NYC.)
"We're building the network for a consistent, reliable experience," he said. "Our network engineers designed the network for when it's fully loaded."
With 38 percent of its customers on the 4G network generating 64 percent of data usage, Shammo said it's getting to that point. Right now Verizon's main focus is on deploying its AWS spectrum, but it also plans to reappropriate its 3G spectrum for LTE. Shammo said Verizon's spectrum position is solid for three to four years, but it plans to get in on future auctions as well.
In addition, the CFO said Verizon is being proactive on in-building coverage and densification of cell sites. The work started in the third quarter, he said, but begins in earnest in the fourth.
With 500 markets covered with LTE reaching 97 percent of the US population, or 303 million people, Verizon is now 99 percent done matching its 3G network footprint. Coverage was the key for it to launch VoLTE. Shammo reiterated that Verizon wouldn't start offering 4G voice until it was very similar to what its customers expect from a 3G CDMA call. "It's an unbelievable network," he said of Verizon 3G, and that's why it's taking so long on VoLTE.
"You'll probably see us have a VoLTE capable handset in the fourth quarter and will light up the VoLTE rollout in the first half of next year," Shammo said, echoing the timeline the operator has stated several times in the past. (See: Verizon Preps Network, Waits on Marketing Nod for VoLTE, Verizon Promises Voice-Over-LTE in 2014, and Shades of VoLTE.)
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading